Results for love relationship

Sometimes life is about becoming unstuck, and that’s it.

by renegademama

You may remember we were burglarized last September, twice. In one week. They stole my laptop and essentially every piece of jewelry Mac had ever given me during our 13 years together. They stole my grandmother’s ring, the single item I inherited from her.

It took months to “get over it,” but recently, the wound was reopened. Basically, through a rather coincidental chain of events I’d rather not elaborate on, we found out for sure who burglarized our home, and it was the person I suspected: Our former nanny’s son, a young man addicted to methamphetamines.

I knew it was him the moment I saw my jewelry box laid open, empty. I drove immediately to his home. He was in the street. I walked right up to him looked him dead in the eyes and said “Hey. I get it. I was a drug addict once too. Just give me back my things. Have them show up on my doorstep and I’ll give you $1000. No questions asked.”

Looking back, I realize he had probably already traded everything for a 20 sack, maybe two.

He went around and around about how it wasn’t him. But I knew it was. The sight of his face in my mind’s eye makes me feel sick. Lying motherfucker. I had no proof, but I knew. 100%.

And the worst part is I knew it was going to happen before it happened. I saw it in my mind. I literally saw in my mind that this person was going to burglarize our home.

I knew it the day my nanny sat in our living room and told me her son (who lived with her) was addicted to meth. A thought crossed my mind: One of these days, he’s going to find out through his mom that you’re gone for the weekend and he’s going to burglarize your home.

Three months later, that is precisely, EXACTLY what happened.

 

After my nanny left that day, I called my mom. I told her “I need to find a new nanny. I need to disconnect. Something bad is going to happen.”

But I did nothing.

I talked to Mac about it, told him my concerns. I am no stranger to drug addiction and what it causes. I am no stranger to the monsters people become.

But still I did nothing.

I did nothing against my better judgment.

I did nothing against every cell of my being screaming at me “Stop this. Get out. Bad things are going to happen.”

I did nothing because I ignored my intuition.

I did nothing until it was too late.

And that is the part I can’t get over.

That is the part that haunts me, late at night when I think about the family photos and videos that were lost in the stolen laptop and the pearl necklace gone, the one Mac gave me a couple months into our relationship, and the diamond ring I remember so clearly on my beloved grandmother’s thin, wrinkled gorgeous finger.

I did nothing because I was stuck. I was stuck in a motherfucking rut and I could not see out. I refused to see out. I would not see out.

Life gave me the signs. It gave me the chance to redirect, to move along, to do something new. The universe hinted, nudged, and at times downright pushed and shoved, but still, I did nothing.

Why? Because it was too hard. Because I preferred the comfort of my rut to the difficulty of a new course.

Our home was dark. The neighborhood was terrible. I hated it. We all hated it.  It was a dead, depressing place. We lived two houses down from a known drug house. They’d do deals in the street. They’d park in front of our house waiting for the delivery. Sometimes I’d walk up to them and knock on the car window, ask if I could help. Probably not the safest move, but it gets to the point when you don’t fucking care anymore. The neighbor on our left occasionally got drunk and poisoned animals in the neighborhood. We lived in near-constant fear of our animals getting out. One day our cat did. We found her on our driveway, poisoned the same way our two kitties died when we first moved in, two years prior, before we knew. Our street was a thoroughfare to the worst street in town, so a constant stream of addicts and drunks poured down our road like a sad parade. They left their trash on our lawn and their baggies on the sidewalk.

We needed to move a long time before, but we didn’t. We didn’t because we were stuck.  We didn’t because sometimes the misery you know is easier than the unknown, because it’s safer, or you think it is, simply because it is known.

It all starts to feel so heavy: The change. The fear surrounding it all: What will happen? What if it doesn’t work? Where will we go and do and how will it all work?

One day turns into the next and the next and the next and it’s just you and the aching intuition, the burning feeling that something needs to change. But nothing changes, because nothing changes. And fear.

The burglary ended it.

Shaken to our core, we were faced with the reality of what our life had become and how distant we had grown from that reality. Within 45 days our house was on the market and we had moved into my mom’s house. Within 90 days our house was sold and we were in escrow on another. Around 4 months from that burglary we moved into the house we live in now, a place I love so much I never want to leave (which is its own problem but one I love to have!). I had forgotten how much a miserable house can bring you down. I had forgotten what it feels like to love where you’re living, to feel “home” each day, in your home.

Action. Finally. Happened.

In a way, that burglary was the best thing to ever happen to us, but still I’m full of hatred sometimes, toward him, but mostly toward myself. Why didn’t I act? Why didn’t I do something? Why didn’t I trust my gut and heart?

I know. I already know: I was doing the best I could at the time. And really, it was just stuff gone. It’s just stuff. Means nothing.

But shit. It’s hard. You know?

Hard to face the elements of responsibility in our own lives, hard to square off with the truth about ourselves. It is not my fault that he burglarized our home. It is, however, my fault that I denied my intuition and chose comfort over change, even though that comfort was making me fucking miserable and I KNEW IT.

It is my fault that I didn’t leave a house and town and situation that was sucking the life out of me.

It is my fault I DID NOT ACT.

Life is strange, isn’t it? The way we stay in things that are killing us because at least we feel safe – hang out in the muck and dirt and mire because at least it’s the muck and dirt and mire we’re accustomed to. The way we justify the shit in our lives as if it’s other people’s faults when really it’s us – we’re the ones too chicken shit to move, paralyzed by our own indecision, cut off at the knees with terror. Of what, who knows. How could it be worse than this?

Until life slaughters us one day, to be reborn.

I’m beginning to think life is just a series of little deaths, of becoming unstuck, of seeing how fear pulses through my mind and spine and legs, moving my body for me, on nothing more than a glorified rat wheel. Around and around we call it “living.” I know the truth but I’m too scared to face it. That bullshit job, relationship, habit, whatever. The truth rests deep inside of me. I work every day to ignore it, until I cannot any longer.

I was stuck. I’m not stuck now.

I want to forgive myself, but some mental construction won’t work. “I forgive you Janelle.”

Ah, fuck off.

That shit never works. I need action. I will forgive myself by staying unstuck, by laughing at the voice that says “You can’t. It’s too hard. Stay here.”

I tried that, asshole. I went down that road and it didn’t work. I couldn’t get off  the track on my own so life did it for me, and it hurt. I was shattered into a new direction.

I’m responsible for that, too, I guess. New digs and freedom. My own failure to move – literally and figuratively – killed me. But to begin again. Unstuck, one more time.

Maybe I’ll trust better, sooner.

Myself, and life.

The real kind.

 

sometimes I feel like this.

Honest Valentine’s, For Married People (Vol. III)

by renegademama

Alright at this point it’s just a tradition. Happy Valentine’s Day, lovebirds…

***

The other day, while scowling at the absurdity of one of those feel-good chocolate hearts and roses Valentine’s ads, I placed my pointer finger against my face in the classic thinking posture and asked myself… “Hmmmm…what would an honest Valentine’s Day card say?”

And then, as this thought rolled around in my [acutely insane] brain, I realized that this is no simple question, but rather depends entirely on how long the couple has been together.

Because as you probably know…that shit CHANGES. (Relationships, that is. Men, not so much.)

So this small, profound monologue got me thinking about the fact that there are (in my opinion) three stages in a relationship/marriage, each of them obviously necessitating a different Valentine, were it to be honest and real and able to speak the truth of the insanity. Err, I mean “budding love story.”

Wow. Deep.

Anyhoo, I give you this. I ask that you please enjoy the clip art.

Stage 1

Years 0-2: The “I haven’t Been With You Long Enough to Realize How Much You Annoy Me” stage, comprised of long walks and hand-holding, starry-eyed dinners, cocktails, discussions, movie-watching, reasonable arguments, cuddling and pet names. Also, smug looks directed at women who are in Stages 2 and 3 with their men, and a distinct feeling of superiority, having obviously been deemed the first woman in history to not wonder if she could turn herself into a lesbian to avoid further intimacy with the male population. Also, women in this stage rest easy in the comfort and surety that they will never, ever want to pummel their little love kitten with a meat cleaver. Because he’s PERFECT. Duh.

A Stage 1 Valentine looks something like one of these:

val1e

val1a

val1n

And now…

Stage 2, Years 2-5: The “Holy Shit I had no Idea You Had These Sorts of Habits” Stage, also known as the “I Must Mold You Into Something More Like What I Had In Mind” Stage, characterized by a lot of discussions with girlfriends regarding the man’s deficiencies, as well as a decent amount of wonderment and awe as the female discovers The Male is not at all perfect (and may actually have some sort of disability, as evidenced by the fact that he can’t find stuff that’s 3 inches from his forehead and insists on passing gas in bed). This stage also involves the surfacing of all other incomprehensible tendencies, causing the female to realize she’s going have to fix this character if they’re ever going to make it. And therefore, she begins to WORK, which of course results in long, long, long discussions, unreasonable bickering, maybe therapy but for sure tears, cajoling, threatening, flailing and general malaise, and, most likely, the arrival of an infant or two.

Honest Valentines at this stage may look like this:

valentine2f

val2a

 

And then, if the couple in question makes it past Stage 2, they enter Stage 3 (years 6 – ?), commonly known as the “Well Obviously You are not Going to Change and I’m Tired of Fighting so I’ve Accepted you and your Weirdness” Stage. (Yes, these stages have awkwardly long titles. Not particularly catchy, I know. Don’t blame me. I didn’t make it up.) Oh wait.

As you can see, this is something of a deal-breaker stage – since it’s pretty much Stage 3 or Stage Bye-Bye. Stage 3 is characterized by a lot of glaring but less complaining, fewer divorce threats and a surface-level acceptance of small, irritating habits (such as buying odd gadgets that will never ever be used EVER, or eating onions before bed). It also involves some strange compromises (“Honey, if you pick up your bath towel from the floor every day, I’ll start squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom.”) and subtle retaliation (as opposed to the long, long, long discussions in stage 2 (or therapy)). On the plus side, this Stage results in a weird peace and vague sense of serenity and, occasionally, some intense relief  regarding the fact that you didn’t throw in the towel when things got rough (and therefore, thank god, you don’t have to deal with these hoodlum children alone). Women in this stage feel a little like badass survivors of some great calamity, like a tsunami, or fire. “We almost didn’t make it, kids. We really had to work HARD to make this marriage work. Ah, but look at us now…”

And we feel a little victorious. And yeah, alright, I’ll say it: A little in love.

Enough of the sappy crap.

Real valentines in this stage may look something like this:

val3a val3c

val3t

Sometimes people ask where I come up with this crap.

In response, I give you one word: LIFE.

As proof, I give you this…

My own real life Stage 3 Valentine (from last year, but not much has changed).

xoxoxo

 

10 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | February 14, 2014

You blissed-out moms are ruining futures

by renegademama

Occasionally I get a comment or email from some “well-meaning” human explaining to me that I really should stop saying such horrible things about my kids and being a mother because my kids “will read it someday” and it will “hurt their feelings” or “make them sad” to find out their mom felt that way.

And I see this attitude throughout the internet, in comments and articles critiquing those “shit-talking” mamas.

Yesterday I received a comment that encapsulates this perspective so well I have to share the whole thing: “Janelle you are trying so hard. I do wonder though, after reading some posts ( which do make me laugh!) how your children will feel reading them in the future: for example the one about your ‘ insane toddler’ or the one where you admit you hate playing with them. Lots of mum’s think this but no one actually says it. You think it’s just a vent and no harm done but you can never truly erase things from the Internet. For your children to one day know how you really felt about their childhood is so sad. Please write some more content your kids can be proud of. I say this with love so that one day you don’t have a poor relationship with your grown children. They deserve better than that and so do you. Think what you are sacrificing for others’ cheap laughs. I hope one day family life will bring you the joy it truly can be. All the best.”

Now, I have no interest in criticizing this commenter in particular. We could attack her for being condescending and oddly interested in the life of a stranger (which is all totally true, of course), but what I want to look at is the attitude behind this comment. It’s everywhere. She is mouthing a viewpoint deeply ingrained in our society.

And I want to tear this shit down because it’s nonsense, and it’s ruining futures.

To me, the most terrifying part of this comment is this: “Lots of mums think this but no one actually says it.”

Oh, lord.

This ain’t good. So what you’re saying is: Though many mothers experience the struggles you talk about, think and feel the same way, they have internalized the societal expectation that they SILENCE themselves for the good of their children.

They have learned to SHUT THE FUCK UP because they have uteri and have “made the choice” to join the sacred tribe of motherhood and therefore, they uphold the sacred values of that calling while simultaneously erasing themselves on its behalf.

Erased.

We don’t let our kids know “how we really felt about their childhood” because we do not matter.

But check this out, my friend: How is dishonesty and lying and the perpetuation of mysogynistic expectations GOOD for my kids?

How am I doing my daughters and sons any favor whatsoever by pretending reality is something other than it is? Hey kids, join me in this falsely constructed world, because society says it’s the way we’re supposed to act. Even though it’s not true, and WE ALL KNOW IT’S NOT TRUE, we do it anyway…just because!

Haven’t you blissed-out mamas ever heard of Sylvia Plath? Haven’t you people thought about WHY it is that so many women suffer from post-partum depression, kill their kids, lose their minds, SNAP one day over a batch of gluten-free cupcakes?

And all the family is dead.

Do you ever think your blissed-out bullshit attitude contributes to women hiding themselves in shame as they pretend and pretend and pretend it’s all good and right and fun and rewarding…until they can’t pretend anymore….and Boom. Done.

They’re dying inside. But they can’t say a word.

Because they’re mothers.

And motherhood is sacred, you know. And they might hurt their kids someday. And they love those kids so desperately they wouldn’t take that chance. So they hold on, in silence, with bowed heads and contrite hearts but a fire in their gut that won’t stop burning, a red, raging, insane mass — because maybe they’ve been lied to, or maybe they’re the only defective mother in the world – the one who isn’t infinitely fulfilled and hates playing Monopoly with her kids and thinks PTA meetings are pits of despair and can’t seem to get the house clean and organized when everybody else can..right? She walks around the schoolyard with a smile and a gagged mouth and freshly washed capris, but she pinched her baby that morning. The truth sits like bacteria eating her soul, a little more each day.

But she can’t say a word, because it might hurt her kids.

She tells herself she’s sacrificing for her children. She holds on with all her might to society’s promise that this is what’s best for them and they’ll thank her someday and they’ll be good people in a good world she’s made.

But one day they’re gone, moved on with their lives and yeah, they love her but now she’s 45 or 50 years old and her truth has never been spoken and her life’s half over and all those kids don’t even know.  They’re in a new place but she’s just there, STILL. Wondering why, and how it is she was erased just as she was starting to live.

She probably wonders if she could have told the truth after all, and been a little freer, lived a little stronger, maybe helped her daughter who seems to be struggling with the same shit now, but she can’t say anything because it’s too late now. It’s just too late now.

So they both go on, alone, thinking things but not saying them…

You know what? This is HER LIFE TOO and she is a PERSON not a SHELL. She is a PERSON who acts as MOTHER. She is a mother though not ONLY MOTHER.

You’ve tried to make her “only mother.” You’ve tried to eliminate her.

And you’d sooner see her die than speak her truth.

Well let me tell you something, you fucking rainbow ribbon mamas walking around with butterflies of love flying out your asses: You’re killing people.

Not only that, you’re delusional. You’d rather live in a fucking fantasy world than face the truth, which officially makes you a damn nutcase.

Put this in your pipe and smoke it: I’m doing my kids a FAVOR by telling them the truth. That way, when my girl has her first baby and feels that death of self, maybe she won’t suffer quite like I did. Maybe she’ll know she can call her mom and talk to her about the real, the grit, the nasty, raw ugly truth.

And maybe I can help her with the truth of my own life.

Maybe my son will give me a call in 15 years and say “Mom, I think my wife is going through what you did. She won’t get out of bed and it’s scaring me. She says she doesn’t want the baby. Mom, what should I do? How did you get through this? I want to help her.”

And he’ll have the power and courage and knowledge to face the nasty, raw, ugly, life-saving gorgeous truth. That’s what I want to give.

Why?

BECAUSE IT’S REAL, moron. And therefore it is right. It may be harder, but it’s right. And it’s the only way to become free. Why waste our time devoted to a fantasy? Why waste our lives perpetuating lies, even though we have daily evidence of reality, of the truth? Why do we justify a constant disconnect between what we’re experiencing and what we portray to the world?

Is there a faster track to insanity?

Maybe you don’t find motherhood difficult. Maybe you love it through and through and it works for you 100%. If that’s the case for you, rock the fuck on!

But don’t tell me I should adopt your experience even though it isn’t mine, that I should lie and cover up my truth because it might “hurt” my kids someday, as if you have some monopoly on motherhood because you happen to be living an American-approved Hallmark movie.

Sometimes I hate motherhood. Other times I don’t. How is that hurtful? And even if it is hurtful, who gives a shit?

It’s true.

I don’t care if honesty is the “best” way to parent. I don’t care if telling the truth results in the “best” outcomes. All I know is this: THIS IS WHO I AM.

And I love my kids with every fiber of my being. My love for them pulses like blood through my veins, like the very blood that sustains my life.

And if that’s true, which it is, why would I ever doubt the validity of my occasional loathing for them? That’s true too, and it’s happening in me, and I’m an alright human who loves her kids.

It isn’t wrong because I’m not wrong. I am a human being with a good heart and strong mind, trying my best in a world I barely understand and I’ll tell you right now I would give my life for my kids. Since that’s true, I have nothing to prove.

So why would I shirk from the REST of the truth? Why would I admit the loving part but deny the rest?

Because I’m scared? Because I think it’s wrong? Because it would break my grown children’s hearts and souls to know their mama loved them desperately AND occasionally considered launching herself into oncoming traffic to escape the sound of their bickering?

No, that can’t be it, because, hmmm…

OH YEAH THAT’S RIGHT.

It’s exactly how they feel about their fucking children.

do not talk about motherhood

Meg Ryan Ruins Marriages

by renegademama

 

There’s that line from When Harry Met Sally: “You look like a normal person, but actually, you are the angel of death.”

We should rewrite that about Meg: “You look like the epitome of marital felicity, but actually, you are the destroyer of marriages.”

Oh come on. I know Meg Ryan doesn’t write the scripts for those romantic comedies. Duh. I realize there’s a good chance she thinks that stuff is inane drivel, but you have to admit, Ms. Ryan and her perky blonde curls, the unbelievably heartfelt love stories she tells, the “true love,” the best friendship, the soul mate stuff…she’s like the quintessential depiction of “all that a marriage should be.”

Or, as I like to call it “The Shit that Ruins Marriages.”

Let me explain: We watch movies like that from the time we’re young and it gives us ideas. Expectations. Beliefs.

And then we meet that special someone and we’re all “OMG I’ve found my soul mate, just like in the movies!”

And we’re just SURE he’s the one and the love story is coming true and OMG it’s all so good.

But then we get married, and one or two or three years later we’re like “Who is this douchebag and why is he in my house?”

And every day feels like work and work and MORE WORK. You hate your husband and he pretty much hates you.

There’s no romance. There’s only confusion and miscommunication and yelling and silence. There are tears and reflection of the “old days” when you were new to the relationship and actually liked each other. And you’re sure you’ve made a tragic mistake. Something’s happened to your marriage; the love has died. The friendship has flickered. Something is terribly wrong.

And all you can do when nobody’s around is think: But it’s not supposed to be like this! Marriage is supposed to be fulfilling! It’s supposed to be fun and interesting and enlightening! We’re supposed to laugh and flirt and have sex on the kitchen floor. Witty banter, coy smiles, dancing!

No, that’s not it. And since nobody else seems to be saying it, I guess I’ll take the plunge and just throw this out: “Marriage is the hardest fucking work in the world and the only thing that makes it last is bulldog-like tenacity and full acceptance of the fact that your partner is not supposed to give your life meaning.”

I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

But it’s true.

I’m no authority on marriage. OBVIOUSLY.

But sometimes, my friends get married. Then, about a year later, I get a phone call or fifty, generally announcing something along the lines of “I made a mistake. I hate being married. Screw this shit.”

And I’m like, “Yes, well. Welcome to the club.”

Them: “This is nothing like what I expected.”

Me: “Yeah. I know.”

Them: “I’m not fulfilled. This is totally not fulfilling. In fact, I hate the motherfucker.”

Me: “Yeah. I know.”

Them: “How did you and Mac make it so long?”

Me: “We didn’t divorce.”

And then there’s a weird silence while they try to think of a friend to call who’s actually helpful.

Having gotten married too young on a cold December day with a baby in a sling across my body, under a tree in front of a courthouse of a hideous town, dressed in all black, I started my marriage in a highly unromantic way.

We were insanely in love when we first met. You can read about it here. But after that, for a variety of reasons (mostly involving immaturity and Captain Morgan), we spent years and years doing everything in our power to obliterate our little love story. We often loathed one another.

Like seriously hated each other. We separated a couple times, but always came back together. I just never left for good. Why?

You want the truth?

Because I couldn’t stomach the thought of another woman being around my children.

Yeah, I know. It’s profound. Super romantic. Real Sleepless in Seattle shit.

But it’s the truth. I’m telling you this so you understand that THAT is how little “love” I felt. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t feel it. All I knew is that I didn’t want a broken family. So I held on and held on and so did he and I’ll be damned if eleven years later, we’re still here, and we’re doing alright.

Most of the time. The rest of the time it’s yelling and screaming and wishing I could whack him with blunt objects. But that’s rare these days. Much to my astonishment, it’s pretty rare. And I’ll even say, we’re happy.

But nobody talks about the price you have to pay to get that “happy.” The longed-for “happy marriage.” Nobody talks about the screaming and the agony and the silent nights – after night, after night, of the same. The cruel insults and utter dismissal. The depression. The counseling. The soul-crushing inability to connect with a person you used to feel inextricably connected to.

The moment you realize “Whatever. Fuck it. I guess this is as good as it gets.”

And you surrender.

Because there’s nowhere  else to go and the thought of starting over with a NEW MAN is about as appealing as stabbing yourself in the eye with a razor blade, so you just give up. You “resign” yourself, even though you swore you’d never do such a thing…I mean how SAD! How pathetic!

You’ve sold out. It’s over. You’ve never been so down.

And in that moment of total desperation, in the deepest sorrow you’ve ever felt, the insane thought enters your mind… “Maybe marriage isn’t supposed to ‘fulfill’ me.”

Maybe I’m meant to live my life fully and completely and let him live his, and independently we build this thing together, but separately, and I let him be and he lets me be, because the “change each other” plan isn’t working, and I can’t live with him and I can’t live without him.

Maybe those movies were wrong, you think to yourself. Maybe Meg fucking Ryan lied.

Maybe I had it all wrong.

And with your heart in your gut and the surety your life is over, you stop fighting and accept the douchebag for who he is, and you make peace with the fact that he’ll never fully meet your expectations, he’ll never be your perfect “soul mate,” the one who makes your life whole and full and meaningful like the italicized poetry in those Hallmark cards.

[Alright maybe some people have Hallmark marriages from day one. Yeah, well, some people also experience “orgasms” during childbirth. The only thing to do with those people is assume they’re fucking lying and move on.]

For the rest of us, staying married often feels like stepping into an abyss and falling, forever, into the unknown.

Until two or three or four years go by, and one day you’re sitting on the couch with that same man and you break into laughter about something only you two understand, or you tell a friend about 10 years ago, when you first met, or you see him sleeping with your son curled against his chest, and in a flash you realize you’re desperately, terribly in love. That something has happened when you weren’t looking, that some new man stands before you and you hold him in respect with all your heart and there’s admiration and true, lasting friendship. He’s there, still, through history and hell and somehow, a life built itself while you were busy arguing, tearing each other apart, sure this couldn’t possibly be life.

And like war survivors you think back and know you’ve got each other only, a dark crazy history, and a family so gorgeous it makes your head spin.

My god, you think, I’ve got a goddamned love story.

And with everything you’ve got you want to thank your younger self and the universe for not giving up, for staying there, for this, even though you never knew it possible, to have this, with the man you were sure you “didn’t love anymore.”

You sit back, watching your friends get married, still a little amazed they look at you and him as a picture of a “happy marriage.” But mostly you can’t believe you really are happy, usually, and in love, mostly, and okay with all of it, the way it’s turned out, in the big picture, the only picture that really matters.

A Meg Ryan love story.

Fused perfectly with Apocalypse Now.

In the greatest love story ever told.

Or this, which is good enough for me.

 

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Honest Valentines, for Married People

by renegademama

[Those of you who’ve been here for awhile know that I wrote this post last year. But since I had about 9 readers back then (you know who you are), and I added some new Valentines for each stage, I feel it’s appropriate to publish it again, in an updated version.]

***

The other day, while scowling at the absurdity of one of those feel-good chocolate hearts and roses Valentine’s ads, I placed my pointer finger against my face in the classic thinking posture and asked myself… “Hmmmm…what would an honest Valentine’s Day card say?”

And then, as this thought rolled around in my [acutely insane] brain, I realized that this is no simple question, but rather depends entirely on how long the couple has been together.

Because as you probably know…that shit CHANGES. (Relationships, that is. Men, not so much.)

So this small, profound monologue got me thinking about the fact that there are (in my opinion) three stages in a relationship/marriage, each of them obviously necessitating a different Valentine, were it to be honest and real and able to speak the truth of the insanity. Err, I mean “budding love story.”

Wow. Deep.

Anyhoo, I give you this. I ask that you please enjoy the clip art.

Stage 1

Years 0-2: The “I haven’t Been With You Long Enough to Realize How Much You Annoy Me” stage, comprised of long walks and hand-holding, starry-eyed dinners, cocktails, discussions, movie-watching, reasonable arguments, cuddling and pet names. Also, smug looks directed at women who are in Stages 2 and 3 with their men, and a distinct feeling of superiority, having obviously been deemed the first woman in history to not wonder if she could turn herself into a lesbian to avoid further intimacy with the male population. Also, women in this stage rest easy in the comfort and surety that they will never, ever want to pummel their little love kitten with a meat cleaver. Because he’s PERFECT. Duh.

A Stage 1 Valentine looks something like one of these:

And now…

Stage 2, Years 2-5: The “Holy Shit I had no Idea You Had These Sorts of Habits” Stage, also known as the “I Must Mold You Into Something More Like What I Had In Mind” Stage, characterized by a lot of discussions with girlfriends regarding the man’s deficiencies, as well as a decent amount of wonderment and awe as the female discovers The Male is not at all perfect (and may actually have some sort of disability, as evidenced by the fact that he can’t find stuff that’s 3 inches from his forehead and insists on passing gas in bed). This stage also involves the surfacing of all other incomprehensible tendencies, causing the female to realize she’s going have to fix this character if they’re ever going to make it. And therefore, she begins to WORK, which of course results in long, long, long discussions, unreasonable bickering, maybe therapy but for sure tears, cajoling, threatening, flailing and general malaise, and, most likely, the arrival of an infant or two.

Honest Valentines at this stage may look like this:

And then, if the couple in question makes it past Stage 2, they enter Stage 3 (years 6 – ?), commonly known as the “Well Obviously You are not Going to Change and I’m Tired of Fighting so I’ve Accepted you and your Weirdness” Stage. (Yes, these stages have awkwardly long titles. Not particularly catchy, I know. Don’t blame me. I didn’t make it up.) Oh wait.

As you can see, this is something of a deal-breaker stage – since it’s pretty much Stage 3 or Stage Bye-Bye. Stage 3 is characterized by a lot of glaring but less complaining, fewer divorce threats and a surface-level acceptance of small, irritating habits (such as buying odd gadgets that will never ever be used EVER, or eating onions before bed). It also involves some strange compromises (“Honey, if you pick up your bath towel from the floor every day, I’ll start squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom.”) and subtle retaliation (as opposed to the long, long, long discussions in stage 2 (or therapy)). On the plus side, this Stage results in a weird peace and vague sense of serenity and, occasionally, some intense relief  regarding the fact that you didn’t throw in the towel when things got rough (and therefore, thank god, you don’t have to deal with these hoodlum children alone). Women in this stage feel a little like badass survivors of some great calamity, like a tsunami, or fire. “We almost didn’t make it, kids. We really had to work HARD to make this marriage work. Ah, but look at us now…”

And we feel a little victorious. And yeah, alright, I’ll say it: A little in love.

Enough of the sappy crap.

Real valentines in this stage may look something like this:

Sometimes people ask where I come up with this crap.

In response, I give you one word: LIFE.

 As proof, I give you this…

My own real life Stage 3 Valentine.

xoxoxo